Tennessee Titans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: 5 Reasons Titans Have the Advantage
The possibility of the Tennessee Titans having any kind of an advantage over the Pittsburgh Steelers would've been hard to argue heading into this season, but the first quarter of the 2011 season has shifted the thinking.
Despite going to the Super Bowl last year, the Steelers have looked ordinary at best, and at times have looked like a team that won't even make the postseason.
Meanwhile, the Titans have performed well above expectations so far and are doing it quite convincingly.
The Titans and the Steelers will add a new chapter to their rivalry this Sunday at Heinz Field with the Titans having all the momentum.
Titans Haven't Reached Full Potential Yet
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You would've been called a lunatic if you said the Titans would be 3-1 with Chris Johnson still under 200 rushing yards for the season. But that's exactly what has happened.
Despite Johnson rushing for an average of 32 yards per game over the first three games the Titans still managed to go 2-1.
Johnson finally broke out of his slump in their last win over the Browns, and the offense clicked from then on.
If Johnson plays up to his full potential, then this offense will be able to put up points with anyone. The receivers may be young and inexperienced, but they're talented and they're growing into a solid group.
Then you have Matt Hasselbeck, who has adapted to this offense way ahead of schedule, and he's only going to build more chemistry with these receivers as times goes on.
There are still a handful of plays each week that end in an incomplete pass due to the fact that Hasselbeck is still building the valuable chemistry you need between a quarterback and a wide receiver.
Once that chemistry reaches its full potential then you'll have a very balanced offensive attack, and we should see some of that against Pittsburgh's defense.
The Titans Finally Have a Reliable Quarterback
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Matt Hasselbeck has completely transformed this offense from a train wreck into the 8th-best passing offense heading into this week.
The old cliche of one team's trash is another team's treasure rings true here.
Hasselbeck's veteran leadership will keep the Titans competitive in almost every game they play in this season, which is way more than they could say in the past.
Even in last season's 19-11 loss to the Steelers, we all knew the Titans were never going to win that game with Kerry Collins under center. The fact that the final score was that close was just a tease.
On the other hand, the Steelers have a banged up quarterback who's getting hit nearly as much as Jay Cutler gets hit these days, and that's saying a lot.
Ben Roethlisberger suffered a sprain in his left foot and his status is unknown as of now. He played with a foot injury last season and there's no reason to think he won't find a way to play against the Titans.
The Titans defense has gotten to the opposition's quarterback all season long and they'll do the same to Pittsburgh.
Now this isn't to say that a banged up Roethlisberger won't keep the Steelers in the game because it's safe to say that he probably will.
However, I'll take a 100 percent Hasselbeck over a banged up Roethlisberger based on what we've seen so far this season.
Steelers Have Become One Dimensional on Offense
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The Steelers have suddenly become one-dimensional on offense with Rashard Mendenhall struggling in the run game.
Mendenhall is averaging just 3 yards per carry and has failed to reach the 40-yard mark in the last two games against sub-par rush defenses.
Now he'll have to figure out a way to find running room against a defense that has bottled up the likes of Ray Rice and Peyton Hillis this season.
Unless Mendenhall finds his groove, the Steelers will have to rely even more on the pass with a hobbled Roethlisberger under center.
The Titans secondary will have to be disciplined when covering Mike Wallace because he has the capability of winning the game on his own.
That shouldn't be too much of a problem as long as Mendenhall continues to struggle like he has been.
Titans Are Forcing Turnovers, Steelers Aren't
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Here's a stat that will probably shock you. The Steelers have just one takeaway in 2011. Yes, the same Pittsburgh Steelers that has come to be feared by opposing offenses for years has just one takeaway through four games.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly why the Steelers aren't forcing turnovers this season, but one reason could be that the age factor is finally starting to take effect.
Now sometimes age can be a good thing when you factor in the experience, but that doesn't seem to be the case this season.
Troy Polamalu and James Harrison are still among the elite defensive players in the league. They'll make their fair share of plays this year and they could come against the Titans.
No one is saying that this defense still isn't one of the better defenses in the NFL, but they aren't as feared as they once were.
Every team goes through a transition phase and it could be getting to that time in the Steel City.
As for the Titans, their defense is benefiting from a huge arsenal of young talent that is making huge plays and forcing turnovers. Guys like Derrick Morgan, Karl Klug, and Akeem Ayers are making their presence felt and have helped the Titans to be among the leaders in takeaways.
Titans Will Not Get the Steelers' Best Shot
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Whether Ben Roethlisberger figures out a way to play or not, I think it's safe to say he'll be nowhere close to 100 percent.
He's a warrior and will figure out a way to do what he can for the Steelers, and Roethlisberger's 75 percent is better than a lot of quarterbacks' 100 percent.
However, the Titans are playing great football right now and might just be lucky enough to catch the Steelers when they're beaten up.
It will be much more difficult for Roethlisberger to be accurate and extend plays. The Titans will bring a ton of pressure all day to make Roethlisberger move on that injured foot.
The Titans have 10 sacks from seven different players so far this season, and the Steelers offensive line is a work in progress with three new starters.
If Roethlisberger can't go then the Titans will most likely get Charlie Batch, but Dennis Dixon might still be a possibility.
Either way, those two guys obviously aren't the best the Steelers have to offer and will dramatically increase the chance for the Titans to get another big win.
To make matters even worse for the Steelers offense, Rashard Mendenhall tweaked a hamstring and is currently listed as questionable.
The Titans may have lucked out by when they are getting the Steelers this season.